September 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 August 2008
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Expected Council Action
Darfur will continue to be a focus for the Council in September. In particular Council members are expected to discuss issues relating to the deployment of the UN-AU Mission (UNAMID) and current proceedings before the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is unclear whether any formal proposals for a suspension of proceedings against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir before the ICC will emerge in September. A report from the sanctions Panel of Experts is due by 15 September.

Key Recent Developments
Violence against civilians and humanitarian workers remains on the rise, with reports of a new government offensive in north Darfur. In early August, the aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières announced that it would pull out from locations in North Darfur amidst rising insecurity and repeated attacks. Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes cautioned that “impunity for such attacks must end”. He noted that the government has a responsibility to ensure security throughout its territory, but also that the armed opposition groups in Darfur have a clear obligation to guarantee the security of relief workers and access to vulnerable populations.

On 31 July, the Council renewed the UNAMID mandate for 12 months in resolution 1828. This was preceded by intense negotiations on a proposal, following a request to the ICC from its prosecutor for an arrest warrant against al-Bashir, to include language suspending ICC proceedings under article 16 of the Rome Statute. The majority resisted this proposal, but compromise was found in emphasising the need to bring the perpetrators of serious crimes to justice (and the government‘s obligations in this respect) and also mentioning some Council members’ concerns related to the request for an arrest warrant against al-Bashir. The resolution took note of those members’ intention to consider these matters further.

The US remained resolutely opposed to any compromise and abstained in the vote, signalling its opposition to reopening the ICC issue. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, the US Deputy Permanent Representative, said that this would “send the wrong signal” to al-Bashir and “undermine efforts to bring him and others to justice.”

Despite Khartoum’s political and diplomatic efforts to counter the ICC prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant against Bashir, its cooperation with UNAMID appears to have improved, reportedly including long-delayed permission for night flights.

There are nonetheless also reports of increased government pressure and implied threats. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), Ashraf Qazi, noted that the government had said that “the issuance of an arrest warrant against President Bashir could create a situation that might have serious consequences for United Nations staff and infrastructure in the Sudan.”

The Sudanese government also unveiled a reconciliation initiative for Darfur including a national dialogue conference, but as of yet no dates have been officially announced. The government also appointed a prosecutor to head domestic proceedings on serious crimes in Darfur. But scepticism remains due to the timing, the lack of Sudanese legislation dealing with such crimes, and weaknesses in the Sudanese judiciary. The government reportedly continued to refuse to execute pending ICC arrest warrants for Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kushayb.

UNAMID’s deployment made some progress with the arrival of Egyptian and Ethiopian contingents in August. Longstanding shortages of troops and assets continue, however, as the mission struggles with logistical challenges. It is unclear whether the mission will be able to deploy 80 percent of its authorised strength by the end of the year as planned.

In August, Sudan and Chad restored diplomatic relations. Media reports indicate that would be in the context of another Libyan-sponsored peace plan, and a summit to formalise it may be in the works. The AU-sponsored Dakar Agreement Contact Group has continued talks on the establishment of a border monitoring force. A new meeting of the Contact Group was at press time scheduled for 26 August in Eritrea.

Tensions between Chad and Sudan continue, however, with persistent reports of each country providing support to the others’ rebel groups. There is also a perception that the likelihood of deploying a credible border monitoring mission may be low given unfulfilled similar commitments from the 2006 Tripoli Agreement between Chad and Sudan.

The north-south situation remains fragile, and significant challenges for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) continue. However, a joint administration for the contested area of Abyei was established in early August in accordance with the roadmap agreed between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

In his July report on Sudan, the Secretary-General warned that “the most critical outstanding issue after that of Abyei remains the demarcation of the 1 January 1956 boundary. The delay in this process has caused the two sides to deploy forces along border areas to attain better bargaining positions, creating a de facto border line as a consequence. Local flashpoints in those areas have the potential to escalate into confrontations larger than the recent clashes witnessed in Abyei.”

In a briefing to the Council on 18 August, Special Representative Qazi provided an assessment of the status of the CPA implementation and UNMIS’ response to the recent crisis in Abyei. He cautioned that “ultimate success will require the parties to realise that peace can be consolidated only through the full implementation of the Abyei road map and the successful demarcation of the 1956 border.” He further underscored that UNMIS, being a “Chapter VI mission”, “neither possesses the robust intervention capability nor was it provided the requisite political and military space by the parties, including the freedom of movement for monitoring and verification.”

The most likely option for the Council in September is a wait-and-see approach on the humanitarian situation, UNAMID’s deployment and the peace process. If the security situation deteriorates, the Council may consider adopting a statement expressing concern and signalling intention to consider measures against peace spoilers.

But another set of options would include exploring more vigorous Council involvement in improving security and managing the regional situation, including:

  • supporting the convening of an international conference to generate momentum for a ceasefire;
  • requesting regular briefings from the chief mediator, perhaps in consultations;
  • establishing a new mechanism for closer Council monitoring of developments regarding UNAMID;
  • setting a timeframe for the investigation on the 8 July attacks against UNAMID;
  • increasing pressure on the parties by expanding the list of individuals and entities subject to targeted sanctions and developing a wider spectrum of measures and trigger mechanisms;
  • re-energising the Sanctions Committee by seriously responding to the forthcoming findings of the Panel of Experts, including official (and perhaps public) demarches against violators; and
  • expanding the regional focus by organising informal interactions with the Chad-Sudan Dakar Agreement Contact Group, perhaps in an Arria-style format.

On justice and accountability, options include:

  • adopting a wait-and-see approach on the ICC’s consideration of its prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant against al-Bashir;
  • reaching an understanding with Sudan that al-Bashir’s ICC proceedings could be suspended for one year provided that there is a watertight arrangement on Sudan’s cooperation with the ICC over other indictees, improved cooperation with UNAMID, and concrete steps towards a ceasefire. (A necessary measure in this regard might be to consider a spectrum of sanctions against the rebels should they refuse to cease hostilities.); and
  • some other watertight arrangement that would ensure legal accountability for ICC indictees, perhaps along the lines of the Lebanon tribunal (which applies domestic law but uses international judges and a neutral location—but a problem in this option is the absence of domestic legislation in Sudan incorporating the relevant international crimes).

Key Issues
On Darfur, the key issue is whether there is anything the Council can do to encourage the parties to move towards a genuine ceasefire and a peace process. Another is improving security and, in that context, determining how best to advance UNAMID’s deployment.

Justice and accountability issues seem likely to preoccupy members, in particular whether an appropriate balance can be found that:

  • preserves the integrity and independence of the ICC and avoids impunity;
  • encourages Sudan’s cooperation with UNAMID;
  • improves the prospects of a ceasefire and peace process in Darfur; and
  • preserves overall stability in Sudan.

One key issue in this regard is that, should the option of domestic judicial mechanisms in substitution for the ICC be considered, important challenges would arise. In addition to issues relating to judicial capacity and independence, Sudan’s legal system does not contain specific provisions for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Still another issue is whether the Council should increase its focus on the broader challenges facing Sudan, in particular whether there is anything the Council should do on the north-south situation. This includes how best to ensure progress in implementing the CPA on elections in 2009 and a southern independence referendum in 2011; demarcating the north-south border and the status of Abyei; and oil-revenue sharing.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Divisions within the Council on ICC issues are expected to continue. China, Russia, South Africa, Libya, Burkina Faso and Indonesia support the suspension of ICC proceedings. Other Council members believe it is more important to safeguard legal mechanisms and to ensure accountability.

But recent developments on the ICC issue also seem to indicate that some of those members may be open to the possibility of an article 16 suspension of ICC proceedings for al-Bashir. This would be provided there are serious steps from Khartoum in improving cooperation with the ICC, including credible action against other indictees, as well as real cooperation with UNAMID’s deployment, facilitating humanitarian assistance and creating genuine conditions for a peace process. (There also seems to be a perception that pressure may be required on the rebels in that regard.) Many seem unconvinced of Khartoum’s recent efforts on domestic mechanisms for justice and accountability, being mindful of past similar initiatives that they see as lacking credibility.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

Selected Security Council Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2008/27 (16 July 2008) was a statement signalling the Council’s determination to take action against those responsible for the 8 July attack against UNAMID troops.
  • S/PRST/2008/24 (24 June 2008) was a statement on Abyei.
  • S/PRST/2008/21 (16 June 2008) was a statement urging Sudan’s cooperation with the ICC.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2008/485 (23 July 2008) was the latest UNMIS report.
  • S/2008/443 (7 July 2008) was the latest UNAMID report.

Selected Council Meeting Records

  • S/PV.5956 (18 August 2008) was the recent briefing by Special Representative Ashraf Qazi.
  • S/PV.5947 (31 July 2008) was the record of the adoption of resolution 1828.
  • S/PV.5905 (5 June 2008) was the most recent briefing by ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.


  • S/2008/559 (18 August 2008), 525 (5 August 2008) and 481 (21 July 2008) were letters from the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the AU Peace and Security Council calling on the UN Security Council to suspend ICC proceedings.
  • S/2008/460 (15 July 2008) was the report of the June Council mission to Africa.
  • SC/9391 (9 July 2008) was a press statement condemning the 8 July attack against UNAMID troops.
  • A/HRC/7/22 (3 March 2008) was the most recent Sudan human rights report to the Human Rights Council.
  • S/2007/584 (2 October 2007) was the latest Panel of Experts’ report.

Other Relevant Facts

UNAMID: Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur

Rodolphe Adada (Republic of Congo)

Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator

Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé (Burkina Faso)

UNAMID: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 19,555 military, 3,772 police and 19 formed police units
  • Strength as of 31 July 2008: 7,967 troops, 158 observers and 1,870 police
  • Main troop contributors: Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal
  • Cost: 1 July 2008 – 30 June 2009: $1.5 billion

UNAMID: Duration

31 July 2007 to present; mandate expires 31 July 2009

UNMIS: Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ashraf Qazi (Pakistan)

UNMIS: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 10,000 military and 715 police personnel
  • Strength as of 31 July 2008: 8,710 troops, 546 observers and 622 police
  • Main troop contributors: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
  • Cost: 1 July 2008-30 June 2009: $858.77 million

UNMIS: Duration

24 March 2005 to present; mandate expires 30 April 2009

Full forecast

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